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Will Bilingualism Decrease in Latino Households in the U.S.

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By Sheryl Estrada


Photo by Shutterstock

According to a Pew Research Center report published May 12, “English Proficiency on the Rise Among Latinos, ” there’s a rise in the number of Latinos speaking proficient English and a decrease in Latinos speaking Spanish at home. This change is due to the fact that migration to the U.S. from Latin America has slowed.

“This is a long-term trend,” Jens Manuel Krogstad told DiversityInc. Krogstad, a writer and editor at Pew, is an author of the report.

Krogstad offered the following statistics:

19802003
U.S.-born Latinos speaking English at home67%60%
U.S.-born Latinos proficient in English72%89%

“It’s interesting to note that in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, there was agreatemphasis on speaking English amongLatinos in the U.S.,” Krogstad said.

The report shows that a record 33.2 million Latinos in the U.S. speak English proficiently, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

In 2013, this group made up 68 percent of all Latinos ages 5 and older, up from 59 percent in 2000.

Since 2000, the growth in population of Latinos in the U.S. has been steered primarily by U.S. births, rather than the arrival of new immigrants.And the report indicates Latino immigrants withhigher levels of education have greater English proficiency.

The authors write:

Fully 89 percent of U.S.-born Latinos spoke English proficiently in 2013, up from 72 percent in 1980. This gain is due in part to the growing share of U.S.-born Latinos who live in households where only English is spoken.

As the percentage of Latinos who speak proficient English increases, and the percentage of Latinos speaking Spanish at home decreases, will bilingualism become less prevalent

According to Krogstad, although it remains to be seen “how common it will be for Latinos in the U.S.to use bothEnglish and Spanish,” Latinos do value the ability to speak Spanish.

He said that more than half of Latino adults whoare English speakers can also speak Spanish very well.

“About36 million of Latinos speak Spanish at hometoday more than two-thirds of all Latinos,” he said. “Nearly all Latinos, 95 percent, say it is important that future generations of Latinos in the U.S. be able to speak Spanish.”

However, the rise of U.S.-born Latinos speaking English has caught the attention of the media industry. For example, in 2013, Univision launched Fusion, the first 24-hour cable news channel geared toward a growing audience of English-speaking Latinos.

“U.S.-born Latinos are driving this language trend, and they are growing more quickly in number than immigrant Latinos,” Krogstad said. “TheseareLatinos growing up in the U.S.whowill be eligible to vote when they turn in 18,andwillmake up agrowingshareofthe labor force andthe nation’s classrooms.”

As the debate between political parties on establishing effective immigration reform continues, the effects on language, and even the fact that the mental health of thousands of Latino youth born in the U.S. whose parents are undocumented immigrants is being compromised, will continue to be shown.

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